Dear John: How can I improve my chances of being deputy head?
I have been made acting deputy for this term and as I am nearly halfway through I want some advice about how to make the most of the next half term. I am only in my 4th year of teaching so this has been a fantastic opportunity for me. So far I have organised whole school curriculum events, made small changes within the school on issues that the school council have raised and have worked hard to support the head with the day to day running of the school.
What should I aim to do in this half term? I am thinking of applying for a deputy post in the future and want to use this opportunity to do anything I can to support that.
Learn everything you can about managing and leading staff of all types. Planning budgets, even dealing with the curriculum can be learnt pretty much from books. But working with staff is the key to successful leadership. I receive too many emails about poor leadership with bullying and both a disregard for other professionals and a general lack of understanding about how to draw the best out of professionals that I sometimes wonder about the leadership courses these teachers have been on.
Leadership is hard and demanding work, just as teaching is, and the opportunity to talk with the head about issues, even in a general way can be very illuminating. I am sure you have been made acting deputy because it is recognised that you have the talent to be a good leader and the fact that you are prepared to ask questions goes a long way to prove that. Personally, I favored management by walk about and the open door policy before the day started as part of my leadership style. You will no doubt have to cope with teaching as well as the leadership role, so that makes your task even more challenging. Use this time to find your style and to learn everything anyone is willing to teach you.
Good luck when you come to apply for a permanent post.
John Howson worked as a secondary school teacher in London for seven years before moving into teacher training and consultancy, including a brief period as a chief government advisor. John is now a recruitment analyst, visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University and hosts our Career Clinic where you can post questions to him.